The Mill Brook Wildlife Corridor
The Mill Brook Wildlife Corridor consists of a number of elements, some of which are already well established and monitored by TWiG. Moving westwards from the public footpath linking Burwardsley Road with Dark Lane, the corridor includes important areas of wet woodland which floods during the winter months, Here the new permissive footpath runs north of the large pond which is full of frog spawn at this time of the year. The line of the Mill Brook is followed to the Mill Pond and is skirted by an important area of reed bed which, at different times of the year provides a haven for the occasional snipe, reed buntings, sedge and reed warblers. To the east of the Mill Pond and adjacent to the Millennium Mile, a hazel coppice is being created and planting will be completed next October. The Mill Pond provides a focal point along the wildlife corridor. From the vantage point along the Millennium Mile dragonflies, bats, house martins and swallows feed on the midges and mosquitoes during the summer months and it is those same house martins that make their nests under the eaves of the Barbour Institute and successfully raise their broods before departing for their long migration to Africa in the autumn.
The East view of the corridor May 2013
Next, Mill Field provides another already established part of the wildlife corridor. The planting of native wildflowers in the heart of the village – the vivid red, blue and yellow of poppies, corn flowers and corn cockle provide another reminder of the beauty of our native wildlife. The Mill Brook, for its part, is well contained as it passes under the High Street along the eastern edge of the Spinney. This area of woodland, originally planted as a willow coppice in the early twentieth century, provides deep shade and cover for a very different flora and fauna – of bluebells, yellow celandines and wood anemones in spring and home to tawny owls and great spotted woodpeckers whose holes can be seen in many of the mature trees. Old decaying timber, branches and boughs blown down over years of high winds provide habitats for a range of bugs and beasties – millipedes, centipedes, beetles and wood lice which in turn provide food for the shade loving toads which make their annual migration to breed in the Mill Pond.
On to Glebe Meadow – so close to Mill Brook as to be usefully included in this inventory. Have a look in August for the dragonflies that scout the stream and the bankside vegetation and dart and hawk and chase into Glebe Meadow feeding on midges and insects so small that we only know of their presence when we start to scratch our arms or ankles. Discover also the butterflies that feed and lay their eggs on the nettles adjacent to Mill Brook, and, in particular, the orange tip one of the first butterflies of the new year which starts to feed on Lady’s Smock – the county flower of Cheshire – which is starting to flower in some profusion in the Meadow in April and May before the arrival of the cattle.
As the Mill Brook leaves the village travelling in a north westerly direction as it works its way to the River Dee, the adjacent land is less friendly to wildlife. Until recently it has been farmed intensively up to its banks. However, as part of the management agreement signed by TWiG and the Bolesworth Estate a five metre buffer zone will be created along much of its length up to the intersection with the disused railway line. This will allow the growth of grasses and reeds and will provide new habitat for birds and mammals – similar to those already mentioned, but providing new living space for all animals concerned. Part of this new initiative will also see the erection of new barn owl boxes to support the Broxton Barn Owl Group.
The importance of wildlife corridors
The importance of working at the ‘landscape level’ in the ‘wider countryside’ is now the cornerstone of nature conservation policy in the United Kingdom. More specifically, the role of ‘wildlife corridors’ as vectors for movement in a period of climate change are now undisputed.
Tattenhall Wildlife Group have identified the Mill Brook as an important wildlife corridor which passes through the heart of the village in Tattenhall and in February 2011 a management agreement was signed with the Bolesworth Estate to care for a significant part of this land which runs alongside the Mill Brook complementing three other sites (Glebe Meadow, Barn Field and the Spinney) already managed by TWiG on behalf of Tattenhall and District Parish Council. In total TWiG now manages 7.5 hectares (18 acres) of land which lies adjacent to the Mill Brook extending for up to 4 kilometres east and west of the village. For much of this length the land is accessible to the local community and, since February 2011, has seen the introduction of a new and increasingly popular, permissive footpath linking up with other local footpaths.
In 2012 TWiG were successful in bidding for money from the EU Leader Programme to ‘Interpret and Manage the Mill Brook Wildlife Corridor. With a grant of £15,000, money will be spent on:
- Installing two interpretation panels
- Production of a leaflet – ‘A Circular Tour Around the Mill Brook Wildlife Corridor’
- TWiG website
- Creation of a series of ponds and scrapes
- Removal of bramble and associated works along the disused railway line
- Selective tree planting
- Seeding of wildflowers and wildflower plugs in Jubilee Wood
Work on this project started in April 2012 and will be finished by the end of the year.